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Tenn. Primary Preview: Will It Be Corker vs. Ford?

Volunteer State voters will go the polls on Thursday to decide, among other things, which Republican candidate of three will face off against Democratic Rep. Harold Ford this fall in the contest to replace Sen. Bill Frist, who is retiring from the Senate.

The three GOP candidates vying for a chance to take on Ford are former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker and former House members Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary. Corker has the lead ahead of the primary, according to most polls. All three candidates are criss-crossing the state in a mad dash for the finish line.

A bruising race from the beginning, the primary has turned particularly nasty in its final days. All three candidates have run negative ads, but an independent watchdog organization said ads by Corker and Bryant contained "distorted charges." The Annenberg Public Policy Center's said a Corker ad's assertion that Bryant and Hilleary voted to raise their own pay when they were in Congress was "grossly misleading." The group also said a Bryant ad that claimed Corker had not paid his taxes was "unfounded."

As they chase the more moderate Corker, Bryant and Hilleary are each trying to convince primary voters that he is the true conservatives in the race. Bryant won a straw poll of about 400 people at the Tennessee Conservative Union's Reagan Day dinner over the July 30-31 weekend.

A victory by Corker, with his potential appeal to moderates and swing voters, could make the general election an even tougher race for Democrats.

Ford has received support from former President Bill Clinton and Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen and is seen an excellent candidate who so far has run a solid campaign. But as in other parts of the South, Democrats are the underdog.

For his part Ford is trying to capitalize on the GOP infighting by appearing above the fray, which is easy to do without a serious primary challenger on the ballot.

"Tennesseans are fed up with high gas prices, illegal immigration, expensive health care and an Iraqi war that is worsening and maybe growing," Ford told the Maryville Daily Times. "They are also fed up with politicians who spend more time attacking one another and lying about each others record than trying to bring people together to solve some of the big problems we face."

Tennessee voters will also choose party nominees for the governor's race and various U.S. House races. The gubernatorial race is particularly crowded, with seven Republicans, six independents, and three Democrats all lining up to challenge Bredesen.

By Editors  |  August 2, 2006; 4:40 PM ET
Categories:  Governors , House , Senate  
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Next: CT Senate: Lieberman Trails Ahead of Primary


I wouldn't underestimate Ford. Bob Corker refused to debate on Meet-the-Press because everyone else beside those of us that live in Chattanooga will discover that he is not worthy of being a US Senator. Not only is he an elitist, but he looks like he is setting himself up to be Bush's next lap dog.

Posted by: Sarah | September 20, 2006 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the tip about Julia Corker... HOT HOT HOT!

Posted by: swingebreech | August 3, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Corker was not a great mayor in Chattanooga. His tenure benefitted his own real estate holdings. He made one way streets into two way streets which would benefit his real estate. This was against popular opionion and city engineers and former mayors. The claim was that one way street traffic does not help businesses in their growth. What an idiot! FIFTH AVENUE in Manhattan is a one way street! They have great retail business. He also allowed a Wal Mart to go up in an area that was to be a protected area, and also was another real estate deal for him personally. Environmental needs tossed out over personal capital greed. He had a fancy ranch in Northwest Georgia that he primarily lived in, but sold it before his Senate run for appearance sake. I understand he lived there during his mayor job and pretended to be residing in his Chattanooga mansion. This guy is filthy rich and has a huge ego for such a little guy. He has had his heart set on being senator for a long time. He flip-flopped on abortion, but now claims to be conservative and pro-life. He does not support public education, as his kids go to private school. As Mayor, that reeks of hyprocisy to shun public schools for your own children. Reminds me of Lamar Alexander when he was US Secretary of Education and his kids went to private school. Then later, Alexander had the nerve to pick on the Clintons for sending Chelsea to private school in DC, when he did the same for his own kids! Republican hypocrits! Also, Corker claims to be a conservative, but his own kids do not portray a moral lifestyle. Go to and google Julia Corker and you will see her in lesbian behaviour.
It is was also rumoured during his mayor tenure that he was having an affair with a female police officer that was later killed on duty. That led him to build a this huge ugly memorial to honor her and other slain officers. I believe he is like Bush and will say anything conservat
ive to get the Christian vote, and then do what he wants when he has power to do his own agenda.

Posted by: Chattanooga Democrat | August 3, 2006 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Tennessee politics are not as cut and dried as a place like South Carolina (thank the Lord). In my home district of Kingsport, in which a totally clueless and ineffective GOP'er Bill Jenkins ran virtually uncontested every 2 years for the US House, there is an African-American Democrat by the name of Nathan Vaughn representing the extremely white district in the TN House, and he is very popular.

Posted by: Mike in CA from TN | August 3, 2006 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Remember when Ford was THE rising star in the Democratic Party? The Barack Obama of a decade ago? On People Magazines list of the 50 Most Beautiful People? Then do you remember what happened? He tried to run for a House leadership post and lost badly. He has never fully recovered.

Ford has some VERY corrupt family members and they will drag him down come November. His playboy lifestyle will not exactly make him a fan favorite in the poorer areas of TN and his GOP opponent will show records of day spas, lavish hotels, and pedicures which will crush his image as the people's champ. The election in November will mark the end of what could have been a promising career as a star in national politics.

Posted by: Southern Progressive | August 3, 2006 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I agree with JimD. Ford will not win this election. If he were up by 15 or 20% in the polls he might have a chance. But remembering the Viginia Governor election in which Doug Wilder was elected, he was up in all the polls by 10 to 15%. Even the exit polls gave him a 10% lead. However, when the votes were counted, he won by less than 1% against a rather poor (in ability) candidate. While race is becoming less important, re Blackwell in Ohio, it is still a major factor in elections and it will be enough to give the seat to the Republicans no matter who the primary winner is.

Posted by: Jim2 | August 3, 2006 1:10 PM | Report abuse

I agree you can't judge a federal election on who lives in the governors mansion. In Massachusetts we have a republican governor, but there is no way in hell that we would vote a repub in as president or senator.
Ford is an interesting case, and this race might come down to how much anti-GOP political wind is out there. From what I have read Ford is portraying himself as an honest voice in Washington. I have seen him speak and he definitly comes off as being intelligent and genuine. Should be fun to watch either way.

Posted by: Andy R | August 3, 2006 12:42 PM | Report abuse

--For those who still believe republicans are 'financial conservatives'--

'The federal government keeps two sets of books.
The set the government promotes to the public has a healthier bottom line: a $318 billion deficit in 2005.

The set the government doesn't talk about is the audited financial statement produced by the government's accountants following standard accounting rules. It reports a more ominous financial picture: a $760 billion deficit for 2005. If Social Security and Medicare were included -- as the board that sets accounting rules it's considering -- the federal deficit would have been $3.5 trillion.'

Posted by: Drindl | August 3, 2006 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Statewide politics are considerably different then national politics. My state of New York has had a Republican governor for 12 yrs, but the last time we supported a Republican was in '84 when Reagan ran for re-election.

Same with states like Montana, Kentucky, and Iowa that have Democratic Statewide representatives (govenor or senator) but vote Republican in presidential elections.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2006 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Survey USA
August 2

US Senate
Rep Primary

Bryant 31%
Corker 45%
Hilleary 20%
Harrison 1%

Posted by: RMill | August 3, 2006 9:01 AM | Report abuse

The state has a moderate Democratic governor favored to win reelection. Why shouldn't they be willing to electing a moderate Democratic senator if he runs a smart campaign? Don't underestimate the value of intelligent marketing just because the state has a demonstrable electoral slant; conservative North Dakota went solidly for Bush in 2004, but the state has two relatively liberal Democratic senators and its at-large representative is a moderate Democrat. Furthermore, something like 12 red states are governed by Democrats - with 22 states governed by Democrats, that means most Democratic governors come from states that voted for Bush.

These races admittedly are not directly related to Tennessee's senate race. Ford has an uphill battle, perhaps particularly so, some would say, because of his race... I don't know if that's true, but I suppose I just wanted to chime in that this race shouldn't be written off because of where it's taking place.

Posted by: peter | August 3, 2006 2:09 AM | Report abuse

Republicans will win this race no matter who they nominate. Remember how that loon DeMint won with ease in South Carolina? Voters in Tennesse are conservative and they want to elect a conservative candidate. Bush's unpopularity is the one thing that will keep the GOP from winning in a walk. They'll have to spend a little more money, but they'll win--probably with 52-54 percent. So as a Democrat, I hope Bob Corker wins because he'd be a more moderate voice in the Senate as opposed to Bryant or Hilleary. But if conservatives can win in the South for Republicans as opposed to moderates, it doesn't make sense for them to vote for moderates. Same goes for Connecticut. Why send somebody like Lieberman when you could send someone far more liberal. But I imagine most Republicans are hoping Lieberman wins the primary, for the same reason I hope Corker wins the primary. Lindsey Graham has to be sweating now: after electing DeMint, South Carolina voters know they could go far more conservative than Graham.

Posted by: Q | August 3, 2006 12:52 AM | Report abuse

Did some checking the past few minutes and from what little info is out there the former Mayor seems to have a good name and is well liked. Considering this, he will be hard to beat in the primary as well as in Nov. Ford has his work cut out for him in this one.

Posted by: lylepink | August 2, 2006 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps Mr. Lieberman could run for future election in Tennessee.

Posted by: Will | August 2, 2006 9:45 PM | Report abuse

On behalf of TN, no thanks. Ford represents an appealing future for the Democratic party, while Lieberman is a poster child of its conflicted past. However, given the Republican leanings of this State, Corker will probably be taking Frist's seat. He was a good Mayor, not nearly as far right as he's having to run to win the primary.

Posted by: TimnChattanooga | August 2, 2006 8:52 PM | Report abuse

If Rep Ford does win the Senate seat, it would be a historic victory. I certainly hope he does. Hopefully, the Republicans will not be very united after the contentious primary. You will have to be careful about the polls, though. Studies have shown that white voters tend to lie to pollsters when black candidates are running for office. Black candidates tend to under-perform their pre-election polls by approximately 2-4%. An African-American Democratic Senator from the South would be something.

Posted by: JimD in FL | August 2, 2006 8:30 PM | Report abuse

I would say that voting for tax breaks for the wealthiest is not exactly a progressive value, but Ford is certainly a smarter politician than lieberman...

Posted by: Drindl | August 2, 2006 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Sen. Lieberman could take some lessons from Rep. Ford on how to vote with the GOP some of the time and still please your base most of the time.

Ford voted with the GOP for the tough, no amnesty, House bill on immigration; voted to extend the Bush tax breaks; voted for incentives and tax breaks to spur development of alternative energy and conservation efforts.

He voted with the Dems against the GOP bill that rejected a timetable for withdrawl of U.S. troops from the Middle East. He may have gotten mixed reviews from the Dems on his votes supporting Federal jurisdiction over the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case, and the Flag burning amendment, but even those votes broadened his overall appeal and kept him in the center right on some issues.

I would say Ford's is a record to envy, and right now Lieberman probably does. The winner of the GOP primary challenging Ford's seat has an unenviable task ahead.

Posted by: Truth Hunter | August 2, 2006 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps you should check the time it is now 7:51pm eastern. Now the pubs have been going after each other like gangbusters. I am not to familiar with the Mayor or former Mayer,but am with the others, and the Maypr would seem a likely winner.

Posted by: lylepink | August 2, 2006 7:55 PM | Report abuse

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